Holliston Nine Aiming For Berth In Tournament

Ken Hamwey, Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
April, 2018
Article Body: 

Joe Santos is cautiously optimistic that his third year as Holliston High’s baseball coach will yield a playoff berth.
The Panthers posted a 7-13 record in Santos’ first year, then compiled an 8-12 mark last season, missing out on a tournament date by two games. Ten victories will do the trick this season, and the former three-sport Holliston star likes the qualities his returning players possess.
“We’ve got the potential to be a good team,’’ Santos said. “We’re athletic and fast, sound defensively and have power. But, we have to improve our pitching. We must be more consistent.’’
Although the Panthers lost four top-notch players from last year’s squad, Santos is bullish on his team’s experience, its mental toughness and baseball IQ. Last year’s two captains and Tri Valley League all-stars have graduated (pitcher/first baseman/outfielder Jake Obid and catcher Zach Jacobs) and so, too, have left fielder Sam Athy and shortstop Jake Poor.
“We lost four key players, but we can qualify for the tourney because 10 of our returnees gained valuable experience with the Ashland Legion team that advanced to the final eight of the state tourney last year,’’ Santos emphasized. “They played in high-level, competitive situations and that should pay dividends. Another plus is that a majority of our players are baseball-first kids. Baseball is their No. 1 sport.’’
Senior captains Ben Thomas and Brad Seymour are not only high caliber outfielders, but also very capable on offense. Thomas is ticketed for right field and Seymour will play center. Thomas hit .348 last year and had six doubles and a home run. Seymour hit .288, had two doubles and a homer.
“Ben has the potential to be the TVL’s top player,’’ Santos said. “He’s a three-year starter who blends speed and power. An excellent fielder, he has a good approach at the plate. Brad is explosive. Working on being more consistent, he’s got a strong arm, is a terrific fielder and a solid power hitter. Both players are lead-by-example types.’’
Junior Sean Jewett will handle the catching chores. His varsity experience is limited but he was a bright light for Ashland’s Legion team. “Sean was Ashland’s starter and he finished fourth in hitting,’’ Santos said. “He’s a hard-nosed, dirt-dog type of catcher. He’s athletic and his arm is getting stronger.’’
Holliston’s infield will feature senior Zach Pessin at first, junior Danny Rutowicz at second, senior Louis Rossi at shortstop and senior Jack Larche at third. Pessin hit .280 last year and knocked in 12 runs.
“Zach is a second-year starter who can drive the ball,’’ Santos said. “He made use of the weight room to improve his strength. He’s also working to be part of our pitching rotation. Danny has battled injuries his first two years, but he’s healthy now. A good contact hitter, he’s a slick fielder. Lou played third last year, but he has all the tools to play shortstop. He’s got good range, good hands and a strong arm. He can get on base and he’s versatile at the plate. Jack has strengthened his arm and should be fine at third. He’s a grinder who always gives 100 percent.’’
Two seniors who could get playing time in the infield are Kevin Quinn and Jack Wilkie. “Both are coachable and work hard,’’ Santos said. “Kevin is quick and athletic, and Jack was a capable hitter before an injury occurred.’’
Three underclassmen will be battling for the left-field job. They include junior JP Pessin and sophs Sam Farrell and Dylan Ibbitson, who could be the Panthers’ reserve catcher. “All three are athletic and have the speed to chase down balls in the gap,’’ Santos said.
Senior Tim Ringie and junior Kip Stopa will be counted on to handle much of the starting pitching chores. Both right-handers, Ringie was 1-3 last year and Stopa was 1-2 with a save.
“Tim lost some tough-luck games last year,’’ Santos said. “He’s our most experienced hurler, having played with the Ashland Legion and also in AAU ball. Relying on a fastball, curve and changeup, he’s got good command and can change speeds. A clutch hitter, Tim could be utilized as our D-H. Kip has great velocity and has improved his control. He’s got a good slider, but his fastball is his best pitch.’’
Right-hander Zach Pessin is in line to be the third starter. Santos likes what he offers. “Zach pitched for Ashland last year and showed improved control and a decent fastball,’’ Santos noted. “He’s got a curve ball that has a sharp drop.’’
The final starter’s slot could go to either JP Pessin or soph Dylan Fonseca. “JP is a rightie who has a good curve and good demeanor,’’ Santos said. “Dylan is a lefty who’s crafty with a smooth demeanor.’’
Relief chores likely will fall to junior right-handers Owen Ward and Matt Tomacelli. “Owen was a jayvee starter last year,’’ Santos noted. “He throws lots of strikes and has a good fastball and curve. Matt has a nice knuckler and his velocity is excellent.’’
Santos rates defending champ Norton as the team to beat along with Hopkinton in the TVL Large Division. “Norton is solid and Hopkinton has talent,’’ he said.
The Panthers, who open their season at home on April 6 against Ashland, will again have three assistants. Jim Perry will work with outfielders, Tim Swift will coach the infielders and Derek deCastro will be the jayvee coach and also instruct the catchers.